Congratulations on your 4.0 GPA, 10 years of work experience and your volunteer work at a homeless shelter every Friday and Saturday night.

Stock photo.

Unfortunately, it takes more to get a well-paid job at a reputable company these days. With a more competitive job market and a growing number of highly qualified job seekers, don’t be surprised if the interviewer asks you to throw a lasso around the moon and pull it down. Remember these tips for your next interview:

Research the company beforehand
Odds are if you are applying for a job position you have some interest in working for the company. Even if that interest is purely economical, you need to know as much as you can about the company. Say you are applying for a transportation-engineering opening at AECOM, the nation’s number one design firm according to Engineering News-Record Magazine in 2010. Although you are only concerned about AECOM’s transportation-engineering firms, you should also research other aspects of the company such as its social responsibility campaigns, global reach, history, key projects and other services. Find out exactly what the company does and, more importantly, why you would be the best fit.

Come prepared with questions
Always be prepared to ask questions. The one question an interviewer will undoubtedly ask you no matter what the job is: “Do you have any questions about the company or job?”

When you are researching the company, write down any questions you have and bring them to the interview. It is key to have questions to ask the interviewer to prove you did your research, and you are eager to learn. This is your last chance to show why you want the job more than anyone else.

Elevator Pitch
Imagine you are walking into an office to interview for your dream job. You wait for the elevator to go up to the fifth floor and strike up a conversation with the woman next to you. Surprise! She is the hiring manager and the person who will be interviewing you. You have 30 seconds to pitch yourself to her — who you are, what you do and why you do it best. Go.

This is the idea behind the “elevator pitch.” Although this is a hypothetical situation, being able to describe yourself and your expertise in a concise manner is a must in a job interview.

Don’t think you won’t be put on the spot at your next interview just because you haven’t had to pitch yourself in prior interviews. Practice your elevator pitch until you have it memorized, and be ready at all times.

Hypothetical Questions
Most interviews are based off hypothetical situation questions so the interviewer can assess how you might react to typical situations at the company, your problem-solving abilities and your personality.

The best way to prepare for these types of questions is to know the company inside and out. What services does the company provide? Who are its clients? What are its current projects? What is its relation with the general public and the media? How have members of the company responded to past problems or incidents?

You should also understand the language of the company’s industry. If you are interviewing with a web design and development firm, you better be up to speed with relevant news, technology, software and terminology of the web industry. You should also be able to apply your knowledge of the industry in ways that will benefit the company.

Also keep in mind:
-Dress to impress.
-Being on time to an interview is being late, and being late is unacceptable. Arrive at least 10 minutes early.
-Always introduce yourself with a strong handshake and a nice smile.
-Make eye contact consistently with your interviewer.
-Silence your phone — or, better yet, leave it in the car.
-Bring work samples or a portfolio to show off your skills.
-Bring a pen, notepad and extra resumes (just in case).
-Don’t babble; let the interviewer do most of the talking, while you listen.
-Ask when you should expect a follow-up call before you leave.

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